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Barclays Premier League

The Madejski Stadium (ATT 24,085) 22nd March 2008 - Kick off 15:00 Ref: M Riley

Reading Reading vs Birmingham City Birm'ham

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Bikey brace sees off Blues

Defender's rare double wins it for resurgent Royals

By Ben Collins.   Last Updated: 22/03/08 6:28pm

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Bikey: Celebrates winner

Bikey: Celebrates winner

An unlikely brace from defender Andre Bikey gave Reading a crucial win over relegation rivals Birmingham at the Madejski Stadium.

The Cameroon international gave the hosts a 31st-minute lead and although young Argentinian striker Mauro Zarate drew Birmingham level in the 64th minute, Bikey popped up from another free-kick to head home a 78th-minute winner.

Bikey's double secured a third win in four games for the resurgent Royals, who have climbed out of the bottom three to go five points clear of the drop zone with seven games remaining.

Birmingham, meanwhile, have claimed just two points from their last eight away games in the league and are now just a point above third-bottom Bolton.

Barely a minute was on the clock when a probing run from Stephen Hunt exposed the Birmingham defence, which was let off the hook when Kevin Doyle just failed to connect from point-blank range.

Caught napping

Hunt was unmarked on the edge of the area in the seventh minute, but his lobbed ball to Dave Kitson was easily headed clear.

Reading were caught napping moments later and nearly paid the price, Forssell teeing up Gary McSheffrey - who pushed his shot wide of the right post.

Kitson was sent tumbling as Liam Ridgewell tried to shield the ball just three yards from the goal, but referee Mike Riley was unmoved.

Hunt was rampant and rattled the bar with a blistering 25-yard drive after bulldozing his way through Birmingham's midfield.

Birmingham were struggling to make any sort of impact as the Royals cranked up the pressure with waves of attacks.

It therefore came as little surprise when the hosts went ahead in the 31st minute. Hunt chased a lost cause in the left corner and won a free-kick, which John Oster floated into the box.

Birmingham's defence was all at sea, and Bikey was able to slip through unnoticed and thump the ball home with an emphatic header.

Feeble

Reading started the second half brightly and should have extended their lead when Doyle picked out an unmarked Oster only for the Wales midfielder to sky his shot from six yards.

The Blues' defence was being exposed repeatedly, while in attack their feeble efforts were easily repelled by Reading's alert rearguard.

Oster had an appeal for handball turned down after Birmingham were caught on the counter, and it was difficult to see how they could loosen the home side's stranglehold on the match.

But against the run of play in the 65th minute, Mikael Forssell outmuscled Ivar Ingimarsson on the left.

The Finland international threaded the ball to Zarate, who made no mistake to register his first goal for Birmingham.

Reading began to look jittery at the back but breathed more easily after Bikey made it 2-1.

Nicky Shorey sent a free-kick into the box, and Bikey nodded home as Birmingham once again struggled to contain the powerful African at the decisive moment.

ReadingTeam StatisticsBirmingham City
2Goals1
11st Half Goals0
7Shots on Target2
3Shots off Target6
5Blocked Shots3
8Corners7
16Fouls15
2Offsides4
0Yellow Cards1
0Red Cards0
59.6Passing Success63.2
28Tackles16
85.7Tackles Success100
51.9Possession48.1
52.5Territorial Advantage47.5

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Table

Barclays Premier League

Barclays Premier League
Pos Team P Pts
1 Chelsea 17 42
2 Manchester City 17 39
3 Manchester United 17 32
4 West Ham United 17 31
5 Southampton 17 29
6 Arsenal 17 27
7 Tottenham Hotspur 17 27
8 Swansea City 17 25
9 Newcastle United 17 23
10 Liverpool 17 22
11 Everton 17 21
12 Aston Villa 17 20
13 Stoke City 17 19
14 Sunderland 17 19
15 West Bromwich Albion 17 17
16 Queens Park Rangers 17 17
17 Crystal Palace 17 15
18 Burnley 17 15
19 Hull City 17 13
20 Leicester City 17 10

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